By Philippe Duneton, Executive Director a.i., UNITAID
For those of us involved in the global HIV response, UNITAID’s name is synonymous with innovative ways to raise money: almost 65% of our funds are raised through a small tax on airline tickets in nine countries, including France, Chile, South Korea and several African countries. Many in the AIDS community are also familiar with UNITAID’s work to reduce the prices for paediatric and second-line antiretrovirals, adapted for resource-limited settings.
Past AIDS conferences have been opportunities to raise awareness about this double success in fundraising and market shaping. AIDS 2014 will be an opportunity to showcase UNITAID’s evolution through our various symposia and other events in which we are participating. We have moved further upstream in the pharmaceutical value chain. Through a robust analysis of product markets for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, we have explicitly stated how we are investing in six “strategic objectives,” which are described in our recently-released report, “Transforming Markets, Saving Lives” and in our Strategy 2013-16.
Our new report shows how UNITAID has expanded the type of interventions it supports – moving more towards tailored interventions with very specific market effects as their goal, including those focused on innovation, market entry, market introduction, and intellectual property issues.
For HIV/AIDS this means investing in quality products designed to make treatment simpler for patients and enable health systems to operate more effectively. Simplified treatment regimens and improved formulations minimise the number of pills that patients need to take. Better diagnostic technologies can reduce the time that patients spend waiting for their test results from weeks to just hours, enabling the more immediate start of treatment. Major co-infections such as hepatitis C have also been identified by our new strategy and UNITAID has begun to invest in shaping markets for new medicines – a revolutionary step for our organization.
Almost twenty years ago, people thought it impossible to reach even a few thousand people in Africa with life-saving HIV treatment. The AIDS community proved them wrong. Today, more than 10 million people are on HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries. But we need to triple that number to turn the tide on the epidemic. To make this happen, we need even better medicines and technologies, in the right formulations and at the right prices. This is why UNITAID’s business model is more relevant than ever.